1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Alexander Geddes

James Grant Wilson, in Poets and Poetry of Scotland (1876) 1:169-70.



ALEXANDER GEDDES, a divine of the Roman Catholic Church, was born in 1737 in the parish of Ruthven, Banffshire. His education was completed at the Scots College at Paris, and in 1764 he returned to Scotland. After officiating as a priest for a year in Forfarshire, he was invited to reside at Traquair House, where he formed an attachment to a member of the earl's family, which was returned with equal warmth by the lady. Not wishing to violate his vow of celibacy, Geddes abruptly left the ancient mansion, leaving the fair yet innocent cause of his departure. He spent a winter in Paris, and then returned to Scotland, being appointed to the charge of a congregation in his native county. The liberality of his sentiments, and the friendships that he formed with Protestant clergyman, at length caused his suspension from ecclesiastical functions, and so, after having for ten years acceptably performed his pastoral duties, he proceeded to London, receiving before his departure, from the University of Aberdeen, the degree of LL.D., being the first Roman Catholic to whom it had been granted since the Reformation. The remainder of Dr. Geddes' life was chiefly spent in London, where he died February 26, 1802. He was an accomplished scholar, being familiar with various ancient and modern languages; a voluminous prose writer, and the author of numerous now forgotten poems and translations from Homer, Horace, &c.; but he is chiefly entitled to remembrance as the writer of popular and pleasing songs. The life of this able and eccentric divine, with criticisms on his various prose and poetical works, was written by Dr. John Mason Good, and published in 1804. Dr. Geddes began a translation of the Bible, with notes, which he did not live to complete. While this work is generally admitted to exhibit a profound knowledge of Hebrew, its rationalistic tendency gave great offence to Christians generally, and both Protestant and Romanist united in rejecting it.